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City Council comes to table on talks to avert school aide layoffs

With the deadline to prevent layoffs of hundreds of school aides nearing, a familiar player is being introduced to help break up an impasse on negotiations.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who has already rejected one proposal by DC-37 and its affiliate Local 372, which represent the aides, has accepted an invitation to meet with members of the council “discuss the issue pertaining to the DC37 layoffs,” according to an email sent out to the members today. The meeting is scheduled to take place tomorrow afternoon.

Union officials are hoping that the City Council, which successfully brokered the deal to save more than 4,000 teacher layoffs in June, can once again come up with a solution to save jobs.

One tool the council won’t have is money; while the fight to prevent teacher layoffs took place before the 2012 budget was finalized, now all of the council’s funds have been committed.

“I assume this meeting is an attempt to help resolve some of the issues preventing an agreement between the union and the DOE,” said an aide for one of the council members who will attend the meeting.

The meeting is being convened by council members from the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. School aides are the lowest paid school employees and are disproportionately black and Latino.

So far, there has been no progress made in direct negotiations between union officials and the DOE, which announced lay offs of over 700 employees last month. At the time, DOE officials said that DC-37 employees were targeted because they were not willing to agree to budget concessions earlier in the summer. But talks reopened earlier this month and Walcott has said he continues to be open to more proposals.

“The unions asked to present us with a proposal they believed might avert layoffs, and of course I am always willing to listen,” Walcott said in a statement today.

Walcott said he rejected the first proposal, which proposed to equitably distribute the aides across the school system at reduced hours, because it would have placed additional burden on individual school budgets forced to absorb the new aides.

“The union’s proposal would not be fair to our schools and principals, who made careful decisions on the allocation of resources and staff, so we will not move forward with it,” Walcott said.

In response, officials revised its proposal and brought a new one back to the DOE’s labor office yesterday, but has yet to hear an answer yet, Local 372 President Santos Crespo said.

“The fact that they have meet with us a second time, it does show some promise,” Crespo said at a rally in the Bronx today.

If a deal is done it will have to be made either tomorrow or early next week. This week is shortened due to religious holidays and pink slips for the workers are scheduled to take effect on Oct. 7. Any deal that is struck by the two sides will then have to be ratified by union members.

“We have a short window of time here,” Crespo said.

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